FAME Teacher Spotlight – Owen Hughes
Grades Taught & Specialty Area (previously and currently):
- K-5 General Music
- 4th and 5th Grade Chorus
- All-District Elementary Chorus
- Bachelor of Music (Music Education, Vocal)- SUNY Fredonia (2010)
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance)- SUNY Fredonia (2010)
- Master of Music Education- Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford (2014)
Primary instrument in college:
How you came upon Dr. Feierabend’s materials & philosophy.
I stumbled upon Dr. Feierabend and his philosophy completely by chance. After graduating in 2010, I was unable to find a full-time teaching position. I was substitute teaching, working at Starbucks, and temping at a law office. In New York, you need to have 3 years of full-time teaching experience along with earning your Masters degree within 5 years of being granted your initial certification. With the clock ticking, I decided to look into graduate studies, as the job market looked bleak. One of my friends (who is also a FAME member… Hey, Alethea!) found the Hartt School website. She had heard of Dr. Feierabend through her student teaching placement. We both applied, got in, and decided to go full-time for two years while attending Summer term classes in between to earn our Kodaly certificates. The rest is history. My eyes were opened to this fantastic philosophy and approach, and I felt that all the gaps that I left undergrad with were filled in. I do not think I was ready to become a teacher until I learned how to teach within these two amazing curricula.
What do you find to be the most powerful aspect of Dr. Feierabend’s philosophy for your teaching?
The thing that most resonated most strongly with me while taking Dr. Feierabend’s courses was the “30 Year Plan.” I absolutely loved the idea that our job is not to prepare our students for band, orchestra, and chorus. While we would love for all of our students to go into these ensembles, the heart of what we should be doing is to create musical people, who can take what they learn in our classroom and apply it to the rest of their lives. We want these children to learn how to appreciate and interact with music for a lifetime, not just until they graduate high school.
How has FS/CS changed your teaching?
Truthfully, I don’t think I “became” a teacher until I found Dr. Feierabend’s programs. FS gave me a framework by which I could engage in an organic and human way with my youngest students, and provided a reprieve from the over-stimulation that many of these students have throughout the rest of their day. CS gave me a structure and scaffolding for teaching students how to become musically literate and independent, without sacrificing time for actual music making and “doing” activities and experiences.
I also feel that FS and CS have allowed me to create a beautiful music class environment. Starting solo singing in Kindergarten really helps students feel at ease in my room as musicians and students It is OK to take risks and make mistakes, and we are all there to learn and support each other. I love the giggles, smiles, hugs, and sounds that occur in my classroom on a daily basis.
How has FS/CS changed your students?
I am currently in my 4th year of my current (and FIRST) teaching position. I have noticed a beautiful shift towards tuneful singing, and have found that even students who struggle elsewhere in school can and do find success in my classroom. I attribute these successes to the careful scaffolding of CS, and the purposeful repetition found in FS. In addition to that, my choral program has also doubled in size since my first concert at this school. Students have really seemed to have grown a true love for singing and making music together.
What would you say to encourage a teacher just starting out with John’s materials? And/or, how would you encourage a teacher who has used the materials for a while, but may be overwhelmed?
The best advice that could be given is simply to get yourself to a training. While an obvious sacrifice of time and money, it will be the most worthwhile thing you can do for yourself and for your students. I still feel overwhelmed at times, and find support in the Feierabend Fundamentals Facebook page. People are SO quick to provide guidance, suggestions, lesson ideas, or just provide support and empathy when things aren’t going well. It is such a judgement-free zone, and it is a great way to engage with like-minded educators.
In addition to finding support, I advise people to give themselves time to explore the curriculum. If it feels like too much at first, start with one grade level and expand from there. Pick only a few NEW activities to try each month or year, and expand your repertoire and toolkit gradually. Be just as patient with yourself as you are with your students!
Owen is a K-5 General Music and Chorus teacher in Bedford, NY. Owen began his teaching career there in 2015. In addition to his classroom and choral teaching, Owen is Co-Conductor of the BCSD Elementary District Chorus, and the choreographer for the Fox Lane High School musical productions. Working on these productions allows Owen to combine his love of education with his love of musical theatre and dance.
Originally from Long Island, Owen attended the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he was a double major in Music Education and Dance. Owen received his Masters degree at the University of Hartford, studying directly under Dr. Feierabend for his two years of graduate work. The time spent at Hartt was transformational. Owen was able to learn directly from the source, while being given field experience and observation opportunities with Lillie Feierabend at the University of Hartford Magnet School, and with Sarah Milligan in the Simsbury School District.
Outside of teaching, Owen loves seeing as many Broadway shows as he possibly can. He also loves to travel, and is always planning his next trip (Up next: Portugal in February 2019!) He loves learning, and is always looking for new workshops and courses to take (World Music Drumming was incredible this past summer!) Currently he is incredibly busy planning his upcoming wedding. Owen currently lives in White Plains, NY.
FAME member since:
2012- Alethea and I were the first ever student members to sign-up while attending Hartt!
Classes/Workshops you’ve attended in First Stepsor Conversational Solfege
I attended Hartt full-time, where I took both First Steps and Conversational Solfege as part of my Kodaly certification. I have also been at all three FAME conferences, and have taken a refresher workshop with Chris Powers!